In a season full of inconsistencies for the University of Maine’s football team, one player has been steady throughout.
Senior punter Brian Cooey has been averaging 43.03 yards per punt, which places him 16th among the 88 punters on the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision statistics list.
He has had nine punts of 50 or more yards, including a 70-yarder that is the longest in the Colonial Athletic Association this season. Thirteen of his 37 punts have landed inside the opponents’ 20-yard lines.
He has 50 career punts for the Black Bears, including 13 last fall, and has not had one blocked.
Cooey is hoping to use his love of kicking to help his teammates post a win over 17th-ranked Richmond at Alfond Stadium in Orono on Saturday at 1 p.m. UMaine is 2-5 overall, 2-2 in the conference, while Richmond is 5-2 and 3-1.
Cooey also kicks off for the Black Bears, with his kickoffs averaging 60.3 yards and eight of his 32 going for touchbacks.
And he’s the holder for Cole Baker’s field goal and extra-point kicks. Baker has converted six of his nine field goal attempts and all 17 extra points out of the holds of Cooey.
“He is extremely valuable,” said UMaine head coach Jordan Stevens. “He has been huge as a punter in terms of flipping the field and giving us good field position. He has been outstanding.”
Becoming a full-time kicker has been a change of pace for Cooey, who grew up playing quarterback.
In high school, he was an All-American punter and was once ranked the No. 13 punter in the country.
“I was used to being involved in a big part of the game and in the process of the game,” he said. “Just coming in to punt is something new to me.”
Punting and place-kicking are two completely different things.
“Punting is all linear movement. Going in a straight line, everything is precise. Small steps. Straight over the right foot and hitting it with the outside of the right foot which is how you get the turnover spiral,” said Cooey, a native of Blackwood, New Jersey.
“Kickoffs involve violent movement. You are coming across your body with a full-width running head start. It is a lot less technical but there is still some technique.”
Since kickoffs are more strenuous on the leg, he doesn’t work on them nearly as much as his punts.
“I work on kickoffs once or twice a week, maybe five to 10 reps a day. I can punt the ball 50 times a day and be fine,” he said.
Despite the fact he is 16th in the country, he isn’t satisfied with his punting.
“I want to be up in the 50 [yards per punt] range. I’m always striving to be better. I expect the most out of myself,” Cooey said.
He takes pride in the fact he hasn’t had a punt blocked and credited snapper Charles Eberle.
Even though the Black Bears’ playoff hopes have been dashed, Cooey said there is still plenty to play for.
“We’re playing for pride. We want to get better for next year. The new coaching staff is trying to establish a culture. We’re all working hard. We have things we want to accomplish this year,” he said.